Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and Colonialism: The Manchurian Motion Picture Corporation and The Production Of My Nightingale (1943)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: 304
Oral Presentation
Seio NAKAJIMA , Waseda University, Japan
This paper contributes to emerging studies on cosmopolitanism by presenting a sociological, historical-institutional analysis of the production (and, to a lesser extent, reception) of an arguably “cosmopolitan” film, My Nightingale (Watashi no uguisu, dir. Shimazu Yasujiro, 1943), produced at the height of Japan’s ethnic-nationalist period during the Second World War. I ask the following three research questions. First, what aspects, if any, of the film text can be considered to entail cosmopolitanism? Secondly, whether, how, and why could the possibly cosmopolitan aspects of the film text emerge under the existence of ethnic-nationalist policies, institutions, attitudes, and behavior existent in the Japanese colonial empire? Thirdly, what implications does this case study have on the ongoing debates on cosmopolitanism, nationalism, and political space? By providing answers to these questions, I argue that an ahistorical, normative call for cosmopolitanism may hinder our grasp of the possibility that some forms of claim to cosmopolitanism entail a rationality of narrow ethnocentric nationalism. As a historical hindsight, it is easy to dismiss Manchuria’s slogan of gozoku kyōwa (peaceful co-existence of the five nationalities) and ōdo rakudo (heavenly place of virtuous rule) as simple political propaganda. But it may also be the case that this apparently cosmopolitan justification might have strengthened the degree of repressiveness and discrimination of the Japanese colonial rule in Manchuria. In other words, I contend that the case study of the Manchurian Motion Picture Corporation and the production of My Nightingale suggests a possible coexistence of cosmopolitanism, nationalism, and colonialism.